EXCLUSIVE: Nigerian soldiers, family members forced to live like animals, excrete as water in the bush of Akwa Ibom barracks, and power cuts exceed three months
Servicemen and their families from the 6th Battalion at Wellington Bassey Barracks in Ibagwa-Abak, Akwa Ibom State have been forced to endure appalling living conditions over the past three months.
During this period, the entire barracks were deprived of electricity and water, leaving the soldiers and their family members in great pain.
As a result of this situation, the occupants of the military installation were forced to defecate inside the bush and other unconventional places around the barracks.
The soldiers, their wives and children had to walk to a nearby river for bathing and also to collect water for domestic use.
Due to the unclean state of the water, many of its users in the barracks had rashes and other skin infections during this time, SaharaReporters found.
Military personnel, who can afford to buy sachet water known in local parlance as “pure water”, ration its use for drinking at home because of the financial implication.
Those who cannot afford it are faced with a dilemma: boil before drinking dirty water to minimize damage or swallow it this way and wait for maximum knockout.
The situation, according to the findings of SaharaReporters, has led to an increase in cases of water-borne illnesses in military barracks.
A soldier, who spoke to SaharaReporters about it, revealed that all calls to the barracks commander, Lt. Col. Ogwueri, to provide electricity and water over the past three months have fallen on deaf ears as the suffering of military personnel and their family members continues.
The soldier revealed that due to the distance of the river from the barracks and the stress of carrying heavy containers to fetch water, some people in the barracks sometimes do not bathe but use water. in sachet to clean the vital parts of their body, just to avoid smelling.
He further revealed that the lack of electricity supply inside the barracks made it difficult for them to use most of their electronic devices.
The barracks have a huge water supply facility, but this has been neglected due to lack of electricity to operate it.
“We were reduced to animals in our living conditions by the management of the barracks.
“For over three months there was no electricity and water supply to the barracks because the commander refused to connect the two despite receiving money for it.
“All efforts to get him to reverse this didn’t work, he continued to keep us in the dark.
“Imagine, as soldiers defending Nigeria as a country, going to bathe in a river while our women and children carry buckets and containers to fetch water for domestic use.
“This is the suffering that we have been suffering for more than three months at the Ibagwa-Abak barracks.
“People often get sick from the dirty water that they sometimes have to use for bathing and cooking.
“Not everyone can afford ‘pure’ water. Even if you can afford it, how many bags will you be able to purchase each day so that you and your family can use them for all your needs?
“We defecated inside the bush because of the lack of water in the barracks. Almost every corner of the barracks has turned into a toilet. The smell is not at all pleasant.
“We are paid like peanuts but we are deprived of the basic amenities that could have made life easier for us and our family members.
“It is better if the government looks at our situation urgently before things get out of hand,” the military officer said.
Another soldier, who spoke to SaharaReporters about it, revealed that some of them had quietly left the barracks with their families so as not to suffer continuously there.
“I had to take my family out of the barracks because the suffering is too great.
“My apartment is still inside the barracks but I hardly stay there anymore. Life is not good at all there,” he said.
In September 2020, Akwa Ibom State Governor Udom Emmanuel inaugurated 168 reconstructed houses in the barracks.
Udom said he took the step after seeing the deplorable state of the facility.
“The pitiful situation in the barracks caught my attention when I came on an inspection with the then commander of the 2nd Brigade. What I saw was very disturbing and I decided to change the history of this barracks for good.
“I have decided to add a water supply system to help the residents meet their water needs. I have been told about the problems with the unavailability of electricity in the fire station and I am determined to do something, “Udom said at the time.
But more than a year after his visit and intervention, the lack of electricity and water supply remains a major problem at Wellington Bassey Army Barracks 6 Battalion, Ibagwa-Abak.
The situation has left soldiers and their families at risk of an epidemic due to open and indiscriminate defecation and consumption of unsafe water.
The respite for the occupants of this Akwa Ibom military installation could still be a long way off, especially following the reduction in the Nigerian army’s 2022 budget.
According to the Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Faruk Yahaya, the 579 billion naira approved for the military wing for fiscal year 2022 was grossly insufficient and could hamper its ability to run areas of the military. key operations, including the well-being of soldiers.
“In preparing the budget for the year 2022, the Nigerian military proposed the sum of 710 billion naira. However, the budget cap of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning reduced our proposed sum by 710 billion naira for a total amount of 579 billion naira.
“This reduction would hamper the capacity and pace of the Nigerian military in fulfilling its constitutional duties,” Yahaya said.
Unless things change quickly, soldiers and their family members of Wellington’s 6th Battalion Bassey Army Barracks, Ibagwa-Abak in Akwa Ibom State, could continue to endure harsh living conditions, increasing the risk of illness and death in the military installation.